Cancer Screening Facts and Guidelines
The Cancer Institute offers free community and professional education programs addressing the importance of cancer screenings. Participants receive educational materials and hear local cancer education experts discuss prevention, early detection and treatment of specific cancers. These programs help educate the public about the importance of cancer prevention and early detection, while encouraging people to seek intervention and take a more active role in their personal health care.
This section provides general information and guidelines on the following
cancers along with useful web sites for additional information.
Cancer screening overview: Click Here
What are clinical trials?
Clinical trials are research studies involving humans that provide information about ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases. The goal of cancer clinical research is to find a better approach to cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Cancer clinical trials test treatments such as: new drugs, new approaches to surgery, radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, methods such as gene therapy, or possible ways to prevent cancer.
What are the types of clinical trials?
There are several different kinds of clinical trials including:
- Treatment trials – test new ways to treat cancer.
- Prevention trials – test new ways to lower the risk of getting a certain cancer.
- Screening trials – test the best way to find cancer early.
- Quality of Life trials - finds ways to minimize side effects to help patients have better quality of life.
Why should I participate in a clinical trial?
According to ClinicalTrials.gov, participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own health care, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and help others by contributing to medical research.
Many of today’s best ways to prevent, find, and treat cancer are all based on past clinical trials.
Who can participate in clinical trials?
For patient safety, there are guidelines about who can and cannot participate in a clinical trial. These factors include: age, gender, type of disease, stage of disease, and other medical conditions. Some clinical trials require people with cancer, while others seek healthy participants.
These guidelines are used to seek the participants needed to answer specific scientific questions and to help determine the safety and effectiveness of new cancer treatments.
What happens in a clinical trial?
In a clinical trial, patients receive their care from a team including doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health care professionals. During the course of the study, the team follows the patient’s progress closely and carefully documents the effectiveness of the treatment or procedure.
Clinical trials take place in phases. Each phase helps scientists answer questions about the safety and effectiveness of the anticancer approach under study.
After an agent or procedure proves promising in the laboratory setting, a phase I clinical trial is designed. In this phase, researchers give the treatment to a small group of people to determine safety, including the maximum tolerated dose, look for the best way to give the new treatment, and identify side effects.
Phase II trials continue to test the safety of the treatment while monitoring how effective it is against a specific cancer. For example, does it shrink a tumor or improve blood test results?
The goal of Phase III trials is to compare the new treatment to the “standard of care” or the current accepted treatment for a specific cancer. These studies provide valuable information to help scientists learn if the new treatment is better, as good as, or worse than the standard treatment.
This phase occurs after the product is approved and marketed; it provides scientists with information about the long term benefits and risks of a specific anticancer approach.
What are the benefits of a clinical trial?
Clinical trials are vital to cancer research. They provide the information necessary to develop new options to treat cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients. Without these studies cancer research would not be where it is today.
Some benefits to participating in a clinical trial are:
- Take an active role in a decision that benefits your own health care.
- Gain access to new cancer research treatments before they are widely available.
- Obtain high-quality cancer care at leading health care facilities.
- Helps to improve cancer treatment for people who may get cancer in the future.
What are the risks of a clinical trial?
Before a clinical trial can be done it is reviewed and approved by an Institutional Review Board. This board includes consumers, clergy, and health care professionals who make sure the study is safe, and will not expose the patient to extreme health risks. For patient safety, there are also guidelines about who can and cannot participate in a clinical trial. These factors include: age, gender, type of disease, stage of disease, and other medical conditions.
Important risk factors to consider are:
- All treatments have possible side effects.
- New treatments may not be as good as the standard treatments.
- The new treatment may not be effective for you.
- Health insurance does not always cover costs in research studies.
How can I participate in a clinical trial?
The following websites provide a list of numerous clinical trials:
Clinical trial myths and facts
MYTH- Many people believe that a cancer clinical trial is a last resort.
FACT- According to the Coalition of National Cancer Cooperative Groups,
participation in a clinical trial should be considered as early as onset of treatment. For cancer patients, those initial decisions about treatment are the most important, setting the course for how the disease will be managed. More and more cancer patients are finding out that enrolling in a cancer clinical trial as part of their initial treatment can make an important difference.
MYTH- Clinical trials are only offered at large medical institutions.
FACT- Community hospitals, physician practices and academic centers throughout
the United States offer clinical trials.
MYTH- Patients that take part in clinical trials are treated like “guinea pigs.”
FACT- According to the Coalition of National Cancer Cooperative Groups, 97% of
survey respondents who participated in clinical trials reported that they were treated with dignity and respect and received excellent or good quality care.
MYTH- If you sign a consent form you must receive treatment until the clinical
FACT- This is not true! You can stop the treatment at anytime, even if you sign a
Additional Clinical Trial Resources Coalition of National Cancer Cooperative
U.S. National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute
MAMM, Women, Cancer and Community
Center Watch Clinical Trials Service Center
Cancer Clinical Trials…
A local perspective from breast cancer survivor, Karen Reid
By Sarah Herbert
People who are diagnosed with cancer are often reluctant to participate in clinical trials. But without clinical trials, cancer research and treatments would not have advanced to where they are today, as cancer patient and clinical trial participant, Karen Reid attests.
When Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2003, she was faced with a lot of information and decisions. Like most people, she was unaware of the choices she had concerning her treatment. As she was consulting with her oncologist about a treatment plan, she was asked if she was interested in participating in a clinical trial.
“My doctor explained to me that this clinical trial would work with the regimen that I chose to treat my cancer,” said Karen.
Thinking of women before her who had engaged in clinical trials, Karen was inspired to participate.
“These women supplied physicians with greater tools, knowledge and experience, enabling my doctor to offer me choices in my treatment,” explained Karen, adding that, “The willingness of these women to participate in the past made it possible for me to recover.”
Karen is grateful she has the chance to help others, an opportunity she credits her oncologist.
“My family, specifically my daughters, my friends and the community will benefit from the advancements in medicine, and my oncologist will gain new knowledge from the research findings of this study,” said Karen. “It is my way of thanking everyone who has helped me during my cancer recovery.”
Karen is participating in a three-year clinical trial. The drug being tested is designed specifically for breast cancer patients who are at risk of developing bone cancer. While Karen does not know if she is taking the actual drug or the placebo, she is happy to be helping.
She encourages people to get involved in clinical trials, or at least be willing to learn more about them.
“They are not as risky as some people think, and we have to help each other. We
are all in this together,” said Karen.